More Workers Killed on Job in a Year Than 9 Years of Iraq War; One Case Shows How
It's a shocking statistic, not too far into a shocking story, that first grabs you. Nick Revetta worked at U.S. Steel, until a gas leak ignited, set off an explosion, and killed him. And then:
Revetta was among 4,551 people killed on the job in America in 2009, carnage that eclipsed the total number of U.S. fatalities in the nine-year Iraq war. Combine the victims of traumatic injuries with the estimated 50,000 people who die annually of work-related diseases and it’s as if a fully loaded Boeing 737-700 crashed every day. Yet the typical fine for a worker death is about $7,900.
Revetta's story isn't unique, then, but it is striking, and as part of a project from the Center for Public Integrity, it brings attention to the conditions that all too many people in the US labor under--and the utter lack of protection provided by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the Department of Labor.
"The OSHA investigation that was done missed the point," says John Gismondi, a lawyer who represents Nick Revetta's wife, Maureen, in a lawsuit against U.S. Steel. "It wasn't the right type of investigation. They spent all their time on penny-ante stuff. How do you have a situation where all the pipes are owned or maintained by U.S. Steel, you have an explosion, a guy is killed and you have no violation? How is that possible?"
"I'm upset with U.S. Steel," says Maureen Revetta, 34, "but I think I'm angrier with OSHA. They're the government agency that's supposed to keep people safe … It just seemed like they purposely didn't want to fine U.S. Steel."
The report notes that it would take the understaffed agency 130 years to inspect every workplace in the US--so inspections too often only come when there's already been an accident, an explosion, a death. Revetta had already complained of the "leaks all over the place" at his workplace, but nothing was done until his death.
His brother Patrick also worked at U.S. Steel, and was there to witness his body being carried out.
The whole story is worth a read.